Archive for the ‘travel’ Category


Layover in Charlotte

July 4, 2007

A nice, small airport they’ve got here. I’m enjoying free WiFi and a really nice office chair courtesy of Bank of America, whose services we’ve just decided to abandon back in Atlanta. Maybe if they offered me free WiFi and a comfy office chair at Hartsfield-Jackson, I’d think about staying on as their customer.

I’m en route to Columbus for Origins, where I am a Guest of Honor this year. It’s my first time as a Guest of Anything, much less Honor. Here’s hoping they can’t sense my lack of honor when I arrive.

I barely got here. Not because the flight was rough, or because I almost missed my flight from Atlanta (though I did almost miss my flight from Atlanta), but because I almost didn’t wake up on the plane. If not for a nice guy waiting to disembark, who tapped me on the shoulder (either out of neighborly helpfulness or fear that I was a corpse), I might’ve just kept sleeping until noon, when the plane landed in Omaha or something after taking on more passengers.

Instead of sleeping last night, I got in a quick RPG session (from, I don’t know, 9pm to 1am?) and then rushed, panicking, through packing and preparations for the trip. Meaning, you understand, that Sara did the packing while I gathered together USB cables and charges, then took a nap with the dog. So I’m on about an hour of sleep, plus the hour I got the plane, plus the hour I expect to get on the next plane. I’ll be dizzy, stumbling, mumbling and nonsensical by this afternoon, when usually I don’t get like that until the second or third day of the convention.

Seriously, I expect this to be a quieter Origins for me. For one, I really want to get a chance to converse with some people that I seldom see, and the heavy drinking sometimes makes that hard. For another thing, a coworker and I have plans to make this a fact-finding and opinion-gathering expedition. This year I’m more interested in picking the brains of smart people than seeing what the inside of my own skull looks like.

That, and saving my per-diem pennies for the flight of rare Madeiras at dinner on Saturday.



May 23, 2007

When I travel, I shop. Instead of food, I buy books, CDs and DVDs. Things bought from used bookstores and record stores in other cities are somehow better than the things I could buy at home. As it stands, I now know more used book stores in Philadelphia than I do in Atlanta. I was there for two days, I’ve been here for two years. This is because I was visiting Philly but I’ve never visited Atlanta. I moved here. Hence, I buy new books here and more interesting, used books there (wherever “there” is).

This is not a philosophical thing or a statement of intent. It’s just a thing I do.

The last week or so I’ve been in Chicago and Philadelphia. Here’s what I got (most of it used):

Yesterday, a Korean sci-fi action thriller starring Kim Yun-Jin, who plays Sun on Lost.

Night Stalker, the complete series on DVD, not because it was good but because I liked it.

Memento, soundtrack by David Julyan and various artists. I thought this was a little more exotic than it turned out to be, but it’s proven to be fine sounds for working.

28 Days Later, soundtrack by John Murphy and various artists. I’m still hoping there’ll be some kind of soundtrack release for the sequel, also scored by John Murphy.

Deadeye Dick by Kurt Vonnegut. One of those Vonnegut books I’ve never read. From the look of the nation’s book stores, the time to stock up on an author’s ouevre seems to be when he dies.

Walking to Martha’s Vineyard, Pulitzer Prize winner for poetry, by Franz Wright. “The world is filled with people who have never died.”

Travel in the Ancient World, by Lionel Casson, expands on the revision of the historical notion that ancient people seldom got around. It’s got chapters on ancient inns and restaurants, Roman roads, and forgotten museums — purchased not just for gaming purposes, but yes, for gaming purposes.

The Golden Section: Nature’s Greatest Secret, by Scott Olsen. This is a silly pop-mysticism bon-bon I picked up at the magnificent Prairie Avenue Bookstore down by Printer’s Row, in Chicago’s Loop. I’d never been in there before, and it’s excellent; the kind of place filled with 200-page, $50 paperback theses like Urban Memory: History and Amnesia in the Modern City, which I’ll be saving my pennies for.

Layout Workbook: A Real-World Guide to Building Pages in Graphic Design, by Kristen Cullen. This is the other book I bought at Prairie Avenue, the one of substance. I bought this one because I should be better informed than I am.

The Packaging and Design Templates Sourcebook, compiled by Luke Herriott, published by RotoVision. This is actually Sara’s book, purchased from Prairie Avenue, which she’ll be using as a guide for future handmade books, boxes and other craft projects that fall under her “hackbooking” hobby.

Parapsychology: Frontier Science of the Mind, by JB Rhine and JG Pratt. The title page describes this as “A survey of the field, the methods, and the facts of ESP and PK research.” It was published in 1957, and I seem to have a first edition.

Conversing by Signs: Poetics of Implication in Colonial New England Culture by Robert Blair St. George. I could not quite figure this dense thing out in the store, and I was desperate for some kind of early American occultism, so I took it home. From the back cover: “By exploring the linkages between such cultural expressions as seventeenth-century farmsteads, witchcraft narratives, eighteenth-century crowd violence, and popular portraits of New England Federalists, St. George demonstrates that in early New England, things mattered as much as words in the shaping of metaphor.”

Life on the English Manor, by HS Bennett, is a rundown on peasant living conditions between 1150 and 1400, as it looked from the modern day of 1937. (My copy was printed in 1962.) Why I am fascinated by outdated history books, I can’t tell you. But I’m sure it’s meta.

Duruy’s Middle Ages, by Victor Duruy, is a condensed history of the Middle Ages with a copyright date of “1898 and 1900.” I can’t tell when my copy was printed, but it’s not a young book. Still, it looks like all of its little folded maps are still here, tucked between pages. The first chapter of this book is, “The Barbarian World in the Fourth and Fifth Centuries.”


L.A. Thoughts

January 8, 2007

(Not this again. Here it is three-and-a-half in the morning and I’m awake. Can’t sleep. So, I dig up the notes I wrote while in L.A. back in November, the day after I was in Iceland, and put them in here for you. [1])

Everybody’s windows are open. Everybody’s curtains are open. People in LA want to be seen.

My brother tells me about the fake houses on the Universal lot. They’re built without backs on them, without insides. They’re just three convincing walls. He says this while we’re driving through Hollywood near midnight on a Sunday. I can’t see the backs of any of the houses. Most of them are dark. I don’t know if they’re real or not.

News stands, their magazines open to the sun and the wind, without fear of wind or rain.

A friend tells me Scarlett Johansen fucked Benicio del Toro in the elevator at the Chateau Marmont. Though I like them both a great deal as actors, this makes me somehow sad.

Two people sitting with scripts in the Starbucks. They keep eyeballing me and my laptop. Three other guys have a meeting; one of them uses the word “preproduction” and I can’t ignore it.

What’s modern and what’s not. Things don’t age the same way here. Dial-up internet and early twentieth-century signage. It feels like new money and old stuff.

You get lost while driving in LA. You find yourself at an alien intersection and glance out your window where you spot Michael Chiklis and a camera crew shooting a scene of The Shield and you know you’re in a bad neighborhood.

The grocery store in Malibu, where the tabloids go to harvest photographs of stars carrying bags of groceries and dressing badly — that is, like you and me — is downright ordinary-looking. Around there, south of the high-price stores and ubiquitous LA Christmas lights, the street runs down a dusty plebian hills with a Kentucky Fried Chicken, an In-and-Out Burger and sun-cracked parking lots. It ends in the deep black nothing of the ocean, where Sunset Boulevard sinks into the west, where America falls off into oblivion.

My brother filed out of the audience, walked away from Monica and Chandler’s apartment and straight to his own, only a block away. That’s weird.

Everybody knows I’m from out of town because I’m not wearing sunglasses.

I watched my brother’s copy of Beverly Hills Cop while I was there. It’s pretty good.

When I walk down the street with two cups of coffee or a bag of food, I just assume everyone else assumes I’m somebody’s assistant.

Music: “Collapsing Stars,” The Mountain Goats

1. This isn’t all of them, actually. I’m preparing a separate post about pornstar karaoke.


Slipping on Iceland

January 7, 2007

DSCN0152.JPGOut on the falls at the Golden Circle, the ice is covered in puddles of water. To get out there, I slid down an icy slope at the edge of a cliff with my hands on an ice-sheathed rope, slipping sideways the whole way. At the bottom, trying to keep my feet as I picked forward across frozen rock, people turned back. I followed Runar, the most Viking-looking Icelander with us, up over a pile of black stones dressed in snow and dead brown grasses the texture of horse hair. It was a stack of shrinking levels, each one a rocky and muddy edge on top of the next. To get up, you had to put your foot against the rock and the snow and let it slide away from you until it either dug into slush or stopped against the solid edge of a volcanic rock. If it didn’t, you’d slip down the grassy slope, across the ice sheet on the wet rock, under the rope line and off a cliff into the gorge beneath Iceland’s most famous waterfall. At the top of all this, the view along the canyon showed it winding away through black cliffs, out of sight.

“How far does this go?” I asked Runar.

“Oh,” he said, as if I’d asked how long until dinner, “about ten or twelve kilometers, until it runs out of rock in the southern lowlands.”

“Oh,” I said, trying to match his tone. “Holy shit.”

We’ve inched out across the rock table the waterway bends around before plummeting into the gorge, so we’re out over the falls now. If we chose to have a climactic battle at the waterfall — which is to say, if we chose to have Runar chop the hell out of me — this is where it would be. Of the thirty or forty of us from the bus, there are six of us here. From nowhere, walking up as if he’d just encountered us on the street, is Runar’s brother, Jon (which I’ve been mistakenly pronouncing as Yol for two days), in what I remember as a denim jacket and a scarf. The rain and the spray from the waterfall has turned his glasses into foggy blinders, like mine. He says something absently in Icelandic to Runar, who nods back at him.

We stand here for a moment, mentioning how wonderful it is to be so near to nature in a city like Reykjavik. I watch a raven circle overhead once and fly away. It’s huge, the size of an eagle. Finally, on the island at the top of the world, I feel like I’ve reached something genuinely remote. I’ve climbed farther than some, at least, and I’ve plugged into a part of Iceland that not everyone does. I’ve done something.

Then Jon fishes in his pocket and pulls out his iMac-colored little cell phone. It’s ringing. He mutters something in Icelandic and makes the universal phone-waggling motion that says, “I’ve got to take this.” He puts the phone to his ear, his hand in his pocket, and steps away from the group toward the falls and chats with his caller.

“Will,” says Runar, and I turn to look at him. “Let me show you where we climbed down the cliff to take our company picture.”

My feet hurt.